New Voices Join Push for Real Immigration Reform

Earlier this week, President Obama reaffirmed his commitment to comprehensive immigration reform. Although many in the news media have focused on disappointment with the timeframe he laid out -- draft legislation later this year, and action early next -- they miss a crucial point.


The President continues to highlight how comprehensive immigration reform is in the best interests of our country. And he is being joined by leaders from all across America.

Right now, much of the nation's attention is on health insurance reform and the accompanying side-show generated by vitriolic opponents of the President's proposal. As immigrant reform advocates, we're all too familiar with those angry, ugly attacks. We'll no doubt see some of those characters, led by Lou Dobbs and Glenn Beck, during the upcoming immigration reform debate. But we're going to be ready. Across the country, the forces supporting immigration reform have been mobilizing and adding new allies.

This time, we're building a broader coalition of local elected officials, African-American leaders, labor, the religious community and local law enforcement. That's a powerful and unprecedented coalition, uniting for the common purpose of achieving comprehensive immigration reform in the interests of our nation.

Let me just review a few developments from the past few weeks.

On Monday night, we learned from CASA de Maryland, posting at Free State Politics, that the Baltimore City Council is stepping up:

The Baltimore City Council passed a resolution-- the first like it in Maryland-- calling on President Obama and Congress to act swiftly to pass real, comprehensive immigration reform.

According to Baltimore City Councilmember Rochelle "Rikki" Spector:

As a city with a rich immigrant history, we recognize that our city and country will be stronger if we can assist new immigrants in fully assimilating into our community, there's no doubt that the country has a broken immigration system, and that local municipalities are paying a big price as a result of Washington's inaction.

On the labor front, the Wonk Room reports a significant development out of Detroit:

The local AFL-CIO in Detroit -- where so many American autoworkers have been laid off -- recently adopted a resolution vigorously supporting the labor federations' immigration principles.

In Atlanta this week, the King Center hosted an event with Rep. Hank Johnson, Archbishop Wilton Gregory, and Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington to call for comprehensive immigration reform:

Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington, a past president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and a member of the Major Cities Chiefs of Police Association, said both organizations are committed to comprehensive immigration reform.

"We think it's important to include law enforcement on these issues," he said. "We would like to be invited to the table, to be part of the discussion."

Congressman Hank Johnson said it is important to secure the borders but also to provide some sort of humane solution for the estimated 10 to 12 million illegal immigrants already in the country.

"Enforcement of our laws is only one side of the equation," said Archbishop Wilton Gregory of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta. "Laws must also be created that are workable and just, and must emphasize legality over illegality."

Law enforcement officials across the country are stepping up the call for reform. Just last month in Miami, a group of chiefs, led by John Timoney from Miami PD, also held a news conference asking for a comprehensive fix:

"We're in the business of delivering a police service whether the person has had a car accident, been a victim of a crime, or been a witness to a crime," said Chief John Timoney of the Miami Police Department.

He added that immigrants needed to come forward without fearing "that they are going to wind up being reported to federal authorities and deported."

This is being noticed. The engagement of local law enforcement leaders in the fight for reform was noted approvingly on the editorial page of the Miami Herald.

The nation's police chiefs -- including Miami Chief John Timoney -- are fully behind the effort to overhaul immigration policy. For good reason. Dealing with immigration, which should remain a federal enforcement issue, is a distraction from the priority of catching violent criminals and stopping terrorism. Local police need the trust of immigrant communities to fight real crime.

Opponents of immigration reform continue to claim that they represent the best interests of Americans. But they are up against some powerful opponents -- leaders from all walks of life.

Comprehensive immigration reform is the right thing to do for many reasons: moral, economic, law enforcement, and political. The President clearly has it on his agenda. And the coalition supporting comprehensive immigration reform continues to broaden and diversify.

Good news for America, bad news for the haters on the right.

Follow Frank Sharry on Twitter: www.twitter.com/americasvoice

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